For your baby’s first dental appointment, you might have some questions—like which dentist to bring them to. And with the many specializations in the field, you might have a hard time choosing. Fortunately, when choosing a dentist for younger children, you don’t need to whittle away at the different -ists. You only really have two options: the family dentist and the pediatric dentist (also known as, a kids’ dentist). Yet, there are quite a few general dentistry and pediatric dentistry FAQs that parents have and want the answers to.
But wait! Can’t a family dentist do the things a pediatric dentist does? If they provide services for the whole family, then facilities for children should already be part of the package. Well, yes and no. While family dentists can check and treat your young ones, pediatric dentists go through years of extra training. You bring your child to a pediatric doctor because they specialize in children’s health. Parents bring their kids to a pediatric dentist because they specialize in children’s teeth.
In addition to specializing in little teeth, they also know how to manage children’s anxiety and communicate in simpler terms that children can understand. They can also bring more comfortable, enjoyable experiences.
Pediatric Dentistry FAQs
These pediatric dentistry FAQs will help you care for your little one’s pearly whites.
Choosing a Pediatric Dentist
Getting the right pediatric dentist for your child is winning half the battle. When you find a dentist that works well with your child—or if you see someone with a proven track record of handling young patients—chances are, you’ve hit the jackpot. How your child perceives their dentist, after all, significantly impacts how they’ll respond to the rest of the treatment.
If you’re new to choosing a pediatric dentist, it might be hard to know what to look for. Fortunately, we’ve got some guidelines you can jump off:
- Are they a pediatric dentist? Pediatric dentists, when compared to general or family dentists, tend to focus their practice on younger patients. These dentists are also trained in handling pediatric behavior, making it likely that they know how to quell any anxiety your child might have during the visit.
- How well do they handle children? There’s a distinction between being trained in something and being able to handle it in practice. In picking the right dentist for your child, the latter reigns supreme. If you can’t find a pediatric dentist in your area, the next best thing is to find a dentist that’s good at dealing with children.
- How does their office look? The dentist’s office factors in your child’s impression as much as the dentist does, so you might also want to take the office into account. Does it look clinical and sterile? Or does it look warm and welcoming? Do they have toys your children can play with? These are things you might want to consider when checking out the office.
- Does their schedule coincide with my child’s best hours? While this isn’t necessary, this criterion can prove helpful for some parents with particularly fussy children. If your child is consistently grumpy at a particular hour or likes to take naps at a certain time, scheduling their dental visit when they do not can help reduce unnecessary frustration.
Is there an Age Limit?
Because children’s dentists specialize in… well, children; it follows that there’s an age limit. Most people agree that the threshold for pediatric care is age 18. This doesn’t mean pediatric dentists can’t treat you once you turn 18, though. After all, they take the same general subjects most dentists do in dental school. But if you keep taking your kids to the local kid’s dentist when they’re in their mid-20s, you just might want to consider an upgrade. Just a bit. You’re better off keeping your kids and at kids’ dentist and your older kiddos at a general or family dentist.
Is breastfeeding good for my child’s teeth?
“Breast is best” is a litany you’ve probably heard thousands of times, especially if you’re a new mom. And they aren’t wrong—breast milk does have all the right nutrients and antibodies your baby needs to grow. But is it any good for your baby’s teeth? Why, yes, it is. (The American Dental Association seems to agree.) Aside from preventing all that icky bacterial build-up, breastfeeding can help your kids get a better bite and reduce the need to wean. Sign us up!
What should I do if my child has sore gums?
Nobody likes sore gums, especially kids. When your little angel suddenly is wailing nonstop, what can you do to stop it? A lot, fortunately. And it starts by checking their dental care. Gum soreness usually dies down after regular sessions of oral cleansing. If it doesn’t, however, there’s no harm in scheduling a meeting with the kids’ dentist near you. They’re bound to get your kid back on track in no time.
What should I do if my baby starts teething?
The timeline is unique for all children, but typically, a baby starts teething as early as six months. Some children get their teeth in much later, while others may already have them once born. The latter type of teeth, natal teeth, get their name from when they form— they develop under the gums while your child is in the womb.
Once your child begins to teethe, that’s a sign to start up their dental hygiene routine. The first step starts with the doctor’s visit: aside from looking at your baby’s other vital signs, your pediatrician can check the gums and growing teeth for any signs of decay or disease. If there is, they might be referred to a dentist to have them checked and fixed. If not, this screening can continue until your child is three years old.
Keep their teeth and gums clean to massage their gums with a clean finger and wiping them with a soft, moist cloth after eating and before sleepy time.
What if my child has teething pain?
Pain is, unfortunately, something that always comes with the teething process, but there are ways to keep it on the down-low. As long as your child doesn’t show abnormal symptoms (high fever, diarrhea, or congestion), the best thing to do is to wait it out until all their teeth set in. In the meantime, here are 5 essential teething tips for your baby:
Keep your baby’s gums cool to aid with the pain. Do not give your baby frozen objects since the extreme cold can be damaging. This is especially true since babies do not know the harm frozen items possess when directly placed anywhere on the body for long periods.
However, giving your baby a cold washrag to chew on, a cold chew toy, or cold food products can significantly help teething babies temporarily numb their pain.
Opt for over-the-counter pain medicines or homeopathic remedies. OTC medicines are recommended. Homeopathic remedies may also be safe and helpful for your teething child. If you are unsure what to give your baby that is safe, it’s always best to speak with a professional. Typically, over-the-counter products designed for babies are likely to be safe and pose little to no harm to your child.
Allow your baby to chew on something. Chewing on a teething ring, a cloth, a clean blanket, or a hard toy are ideal for teething babies. It allows pressure to be applied to the aching areas to relieve the pain and distracts babies from the discomfort.
Apply pressure to your baby’s gums by rubbing them to relieve the pain. Another way to ensure your baby receives pressure on the painful areas of the mouth is to rub your baby’s gums with a clean, wet washcloth. The pressure applied and the washcloth’s wetness will greatly help reduce the pain your baby is feeling.
Do NOT rub alcohol on your baby’s gums. Because of the harm of alcohol for babies, it’s best to stay away from alcohol to soothe your baby’s teething pain. There are many safe ways to relieve your baby’s teething pain, but this is not an ideal one. Resort to remedies that pose little to no risk to your young child.
How often should your child see their pediatric dentist?
With the benefits a regular check-up can offer, how many times should your kid take a trip to the dentist, then? Twice a year, sans the emergency consultations. This time frame usually allows your pediatric dentist to monitor any developments that have occurred throughout the year.
Some parents might wonder if it’s still necessary to take their child to the dentist despite having healthy teeth. You should take them all the more. If your child’s teeth look relatively healthy, taking them to the dentist is a considerable preventive measure. It’s during these appointments where they perform the necessary cleanings and treatments that kick your child’s teeth into gear to fight against decay. Such measures may include gentle dental scaling, fluoride varnish, and sealant application. If the pediatric dentist also finds any signs of decay or oral problems during the examination, they can also treat it during the initial stages. Here are a couple of more reasons why:
- To check the state of their oral health
When it comes to the first dental appointment, dental professionals recommend having them get checked once their first tooth erupts. At this age, your child might have attained the streptococcus mutans bacteria responsible for tooth decay from their parents. Without proper monitoring, these bacteria could proliferate and deteriorate the developing tooth before your child’s permanent tooth sets in. And the most severe stage of decay often leads to premature tooth loss, which has its own set of complications. Having that first appointment early, then, gives your child the preventive edge. And with a follow-up check-up every six months, your child can continue to have this advantage well until they get their permanent teeth.
- To assess their oral habits
When your child keeps to their regular dentist visits, they don’t just have their teeth screened. Their pediatric dentist may also delve into their dental history to ascertain whether their dental habits help or harm their oral health. With a visit every six months, the pediatric dentist can easily see if there have been any improvements since the last visit. The six-month duration here is quite important. This gives children plenty of room for improvement when it comes to caring for their oral health until their next appointment.During the appointment, your child’s pediatric dentist may ask questions about their hygiene and eating habits. They do this to see whether they contributed to the state of their oral health. If the contribution is negative, your child’s dentist may prescribe some lifestyle changes to bring them back on the right track. These corrections might even include a free toothbrush and toothpaste specially designed to delight your little one.
- To evaluate the need for early intervention
Sometimes, your child’s dentist might find that your kid is at risk of specific oral ailments. During the appointment, they can easily schedule another visit to correct the problem. Severe dental issues often grow more dangerous the more you let them be. Similarly, the earlier you stop the problem, the better chances your child will fare as they grow into adulthood. But prevention doesn’t just stop at treating the disease. Your child’s pediatric dentist can also prescribe a course of action your kid could take to prevent similar instances from happening again.
5 Tips for Taking Kids to the Dentist
We can’t stress enough how necessary your child’s first dental appointment is. It sets their dental foundation for life, both figuratively and literally. During that first visit, your child not only gets the protection their teeth need from the start, but they also get a place they can head to during any signs of dental trouble. Building this foundation isn’t always easy, however. When your toddler’s particularly fussy, sometimes you’ll need a few tips for taking kids to the dentist.
At this age, your child still lacks the cognitive ability to temper or work through their emotions. Because of this, having toddler patients pose a unique challenge for pediatric dentists and parents alike. Not understanding the nuances of toddler behavior can make the appointment more complicated than necessary and hinder any chances of a repeat visit.
Fortunately, the opposite can be said as well. Here are five tips for taking kids to the dentist:
#1 Bring in an element of participation
Toddlers are at an age where they’ve begun to realize that their body is their own, that they’re their person. Thrilled by this realization, it’s no surprise that they take every chance they get to see what they can do by themselves. It’s no surprise that an interactive approach to their dental visits works well for them. While at the dental office, encourage them to explore the little knick-knacks on the shelves. Pediatric dentists can also let their younger patients look at the tools and explain what they do in a positive fashion.
#2 Monkey see, monkey do
Aside from wanting to do things themselves, children at this age also want to learn more about the world around them. It’s why they want to play with the same toys other children are playing with or do what others do. Take advantage of this by letting them in on your dental appointments. Or at least the child-friendly ones. When you’re out for your scheduled prophylaxis, for instance, you can bring your child to the dentist for a supervised visit, so they can see what happens during a visit. Chances are, they might want to have an appointment too.
#3 Engage your toddler’s imagination
A toddler’s thought process tends to delve on the fantastical. They tend to combine what is real and imaginary. They ascribe attributes to objects that do not have them. Or believe things will happen because they’ve thought them. Engaging your toddler’s imagination during the visit, then, could spell the difference between a scary dentist visit and a trip to wonderland.
#4 Let your child bring along their “focus objects”
In a strange, new world they’re only beginning to understand, toddlers often grasp for a sense of control to know what they’re going through. It’s why they often become attached to things, like a security blanket or a favorite stuffed toy. Having a “focus object” when you take your child to the dentistcould then help ease the jitters out of extremely nervous toddlers and calm them during the check-up itself.
#5 Don’t let them wait on it
Finally, toddlers don’t have a sense of time passing. If you tell them to wait on something, expect a big fuss until the event arrives and a grumpy tot on the day itself. Save yourself the frustration, and tell them about the visit on the day itself.